Covid-19: Food Retailers Must Act Responsibly

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has warned that retailers who have been handed the monopoly on getting food to consumers, must act responsibly.

TFA National Chairman, Mark Coulman, said “At this time of emergency, the Government has suspended the normal operation of competition law to allow a greater degree of coordination within food retail than would otherwise be allowed. Retailers have a responsibility to ensure that they are using this exceptional flexibility, both in their consumer facing role and in their actions upstream in the supply chain.”

The loss of food service outlets through the closure of restaurants, catering and many takeaway establishments, has not diminished food demand. It has merely transferred it to retail. However, farmers who have been supplying products destined for food service have seen huge disruption, falling prices and warnings of worse to come.

“It has been heart-breaking to see farmers having to dump milk which, they have been told, will not be picked up due to claims of a slowdown in demand. I do not underestimate the difficulties in shifting products from food service into retail, but we need a greater degree of effort to get this sorted. The only thing that the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board should be doing is getting these routes to market flowing,” said Mr Coulman.

“It is also unforgivable to see retail shelves empty of cuts of beef, pork and British lamb, whilst supermarkets are pushing Polish beef mince and New Zealand lamb through their stores. I do not accept that there is no demand for hindquarter cuts of British beef or lamb and pork joints. With a bit of promotion, some public facing recipe advice and importantly giving consumers the opportunity to purchase these items, I cannot see why they would fail to sell,” said Mr Coulman.

“In these unprecedented days, if retailers are not prepared to act in responsible ways for the benefit of the whole of the supply chain, the Government needs to step in to require retailers to do more to source British products and to work with the wider industry to shift more produce through retail where it was previously destined for food service,” said Mr Coulman.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.